South Tahoe schools start year with new faces & lessons |

South Tahoe schools start year with new faces & lessons

Jack Barnwell
Mt. Tallac High School junior Breanna Parra speaks with Aaron Hussmann from the League to Save Lake Tahoe during a meet-and-greet on Monday, Aug. 31, during Mt. Tallac's first day of school.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

When Lake Tahoe Unified School District rang in its new school year on Monday, Aug. 31, kicking off new programs was a focus.

Bijou Community School bustled as students and parents arrived waves. Instructors and administrators greeted students in English and Spanish while helping them to find classrooms.

According to Bijou Principal Cindy Martinez, the school recently added a third grade dual-language course. It also has four new faces: kindergarten teacher Sarah Purl, first grade instructor Laurel Forehand, fifth grade teacher Gina Locicero, and second grade two-way immersion language instructor Maria Franco.

Martinez additionally said she’s seen an increase in student enrollment this year, including those from outside South Tahoe.

“It looks like families are moving back,” she explained.

At Mt. Tallac High School Monday, students mixed with business leaders at a meet-and-greet event; the school continues its second year of career development.

Mt. Tallac junior Breanna Parra said the program provides more options for students, especially those who don’t want to attend South Tahoe High School.

“Mt. Tallac gives you more opportunities,” Parra said Monday. “Students get to graduate early.”

Elementary school

Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s four elementary schools ­— Bijou Community School, Tahoe Valley Elementary, Sierra House Elementary and Lake Tahoe Environmental Magnet School in Meyers — focus on individual themes of learning.

Bijou’s school offers a dual Spanish-English immersion program; Tahoe Valley focuses on the arts; Sierra House has an athletic emphasis; while Lake Tahoe Environmental Magnet School pilots environmental lessons.

Elementary schools will push project-based learning methods, including partnerships with community organizations

“We are planning to continue that goal and identify projects for individual grade levels,” Martinez said. “We feel that we are establishing a really strong program at the elementary level.”

High school and middle schools

Local secondary schools strive to continue lessons learned at area elementary schools, including more digital programs.

South Tahoe Middle School Principal John Simons calls middle school a unique staging ground.

“We have to feed the high school, but also support what students have done at the elementary schools,” Simon said.

South Tahoe Middle School rolled out its own one-to-one technology program this school year. Sixth-graders began receiving Chromebooks on Monday.

“The subjects taught and technology are really integrated into each other,” Simons said.

Prior to the adoption of Chromebooks, the district used Windows netbooks, which had too many bugs, Simons said.

South Tahoe Middle School also introduced a introductory digital media course, which feeds directly into the high school’s Career Technology Education segment.

“The instructor is an expert in the field,” Simons said.

South Tahoe High School continues a second year of students using Chromebooks, an initiative Principal Chad Houck said has worked well.

California’s Department of Education recognized South Tahoe High School for its efforts in June.

Students and teachers use Google Classroom to do assignments and collaborate on projects.

“Both the high school and middle school have worked as a team to improve the consistency for student development,” Houck said.

At South Tahoe High School, two new programs paved the way for a smoother transition. Link Crew, Houck said, pairs upper-class students with incoming freshmen in a mentor-style program.

Houck said the goal is to expose students across the district to the Career Technical Education programs. Youths from all four elementary schools routinely visit high school facilities, including the auto mechanic program, digital media, and sports medicine.

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